How To Build A Tent: Episode 28 – How to be innovative
Written by Kelli Williams on September 14, 2018
Let’s talk about 3 ways to be innovative and how we there is no better time to be innovative than today.
Welcome to How to Build a Tent. The show’s not about tank-building, but how to make you successful. Today, we’re going to talk about advice a philosophy teacher of mine gave me about all you need to be successful. Before we get into that, I want to let you know we’re part of the CrossPolitic network. Go over to shopcrossp.wpengine.com, become a member. You can also reach out to me with any questions, comments, show suggestions at HowToBuildATent on Twitter or Instagram. Give me a follow, show me some love, and you can e-mail me at matthowtobuildatent.com as well. Please share this show with a friend, someone who would be interested in furthering their career or starting a business, anything like that, would be really appreciated to help grow the show and just would really appreciate your support.
So, what did my philosophy professor tell me is all you need to be successful? He said, “Imagination and curiosity. If you have imagination and you have curiosity, you’re going to be successful at whatever you do.” Now I think that is leaving out a few critical things. Mainly, 1.) Is hard work, but I like that advice. It is really helpful to have an imagination. It’s really helpful to be curious about things. So, we’re going to dive into that today. What is imagination? What is curiosity?
And first I want to talk about hard work because successful people never had a problem with laziness or if they did have that problem, they overcame it. Successful people are hardworking people. Usually, the problem for them is finding the balance between what to be working hard at. They have a drive, they want to give 100%, and they usually push everything else away, but prioritization and understanding what is important in life is really helpful: God, your family, etc. Successful people aren’t lazy people. I love that verse in Ecclesiastes 10:18 – says because of laziness, the roof caves in, and because of idle hands, the house leaks. That’s such a great picture of what it’s like to be lazy. Your roof caves in, and you have leaky houses. If you have an imagination and curiosity, but you don’t have hard work to implement the ideas that you come up with, you’re going to have a collapsed roof.
So, what does it mean to have curiosity? Do you care about how something works or do you just care that it works? People that want to know about business processes, software, hardware, engines, those are the people that tear apart the engines just to see how it works even though something’s not wrong. That is what curiosity looks like, someone who wants to know the code of software how efficient is this process? What could be better? What could we do better to be more efficient? Those are the thoughts of a curious person, and that is something that can be practiced. You can intentionally be curious. You can force yourself to ask questions. You’re an intelligent person. It might not come naturally to you, but I believe it’s a discipline that you can learn, how to be more curious, how to wonder about things, how to examine things, to take time and to really appreciate how some things function, how something was built. That is what curiosity looks like. Successful people want to know how things work.
The reason that being curious is a great attribute to have to be successful is because you can’t fix things if you didn’t know how it worked, to begin with. You don’t know how to fix something or what it should be if you come upon a process that’s broken or a product that’s broken. If my refrigerator breaks, I have no idea how to fix it because I don’t know what it looks like to be fixed. I don’t know what it looks like in working order. I need to get a refrigerator repairman to come out and fix it because they know what it’s supposed to do. They know what it needs to get back into the working mode. I do not because I have not been curious enough to figure out how my refrigerator works; I just want to know that it works. So, that’s a case of me not being curious, and it’s important because if you, in business, come in and you are managing a team, let’s say, and they have a process to either deliver a product or deliver a service, whatever it may be, and it’s working fine and you don’t have the curiosity. You don’t go to learn every step and how it’s done and why it’s done. Then, there might be an opportunity for you to save 5 percent in cost or make your whole process 5 percent more efficient, and if you’re just happy with how things are and you’re not curious about how the process is performed, then you’re going to leave that 5 percent on the table, and you’re going to look. You’re not going to be in line for that promotion or you’re not going to be as competitive if you have a business as someone who is curious who is constantly looking for ways to improve their systems, to improve their team.
So being curious is really helpful because there are always things to improve on, right? We’re fallen people, and we don’t have all knowledge. So, there are always opportunities to improve. So, you should just think of things that way. You should be curious about what you’re involved in, what you’re passionate about, and you should be curious about every element of it because there are always things to build on and to improve on.
So, what does it mean to have an imagination? It means you’re foolish a lot of times, and I say that kind of joking because people that have imaginations, a lot of times people look at them as crazy. It requires a lot of humility to have an imagination. And I feel like I’m a very imaginative person. I come up with a lot of crazy ideas and some people look at me like, “You’re nuts.” People are going to think you’re a little crazy to have an imagination, but it’s required. You need to have humility, but keep dreaming. Keep believing. If you have a curiosity, you understand how things work. You figure things out. You see problems that could be improved. You take that imagination and you come up with solutions to those things that you’ve learned about through your curiosity, and that’s how you come up with innovative ideas. That’s how you improve efficiencies. That’s how you implement new products. As you see a problem, you understand the problem, you’ve figured it out, you’ve taken the time to see how it works, you see how people interact with each other, and then you have the imagination to go outside the norm, outside the typical of how things are done and find a new solution to it.
I think the classic example is Steve Jobs with Apple. You think of the iPod. Now the iPod itself wasn’t Steve Jobs’s imagination. I believe Dell had an MP3 player before, but one of their biggest problems was with marketing is explaining and communicating their imagination, their vision, the product capability of an MP3 player to the public, and this is important with marketing. When you have a vision, a dream for a product, and you bring it to fruition, you have to be able to communicate that imagination to people as well, and I think their slogan is so great, and what made the iPod so popular was the phrase, “1,000 songs in your pocket.” Just imagine walking around with 1,000 songs in your pocket back with the CD days. I still remember riding my bike, hitting a bump, and then my CD skipping, my Walkman, but they were able to capture people’s imagination with what the iPod was.
A good example of Steve Jobs probably is the iPhone. Before the iPhone, no one thought that you could touch a screen to open an app, to navigate your phone. It was a keyboard, and it was a ball that you would roll if you had a Blackberry, right? You checked your e-mails, and that was the best it got. That is revolutionary thinking. That’s an imagination. People would think you were crazy just 20 years ago, 30 years ago, that you would be able to walk around with a computer in your hand and touch-screen everything with your finger. Imagination.
And then also with the iPad. I remember the iPad coming out. It wasn’t a phone. It wasn’t a computer. People were doubting – this whole new sector of the industry was just created with the imagination of an iPad, that you would carry around this tablet and it would be the between of the phone and a computer. A whole new segment of an industry was created just because of Steve Jobs’ imagination. Think about things like blockchains, this new technology that’s coming out where the data isn’t on one server anymore, but it’s on 1,000-plus servers, and they all have to agree on every transaction to help with theft, with identify theft, with making sure that transactions are legitimate. You’ve got to think outside of the box like that. Very interesting technology, but that’s thinking outside the box. That’s having an imagination. That’s understanding their industry and coming up with a solution.
Think of just AI in general, and this is just an interesting point that I think is important for us is imagination is so much more valuable today thinking of things like AI – artificial intelligence – and I think imagination is so much more important today than it was even five years ago is because as technology evolves, as technology comes out faster and faster and reinvents itself, things that were crazy, the things that were beyond possible are now closer to possible today because of technology and how fast it is able to take the impossible and make it a reality, and that difference between the impossible and the reality is coming closer and closer together as technology evolves every day.
I hope that helps. I hope that’s a blessing to you. We’ll talk to you next time, and God bless.
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